Hardaker or Escare: Who is Super League’s best No.1?

As seems to be the case every year when it comes to the Super League Dream Team, there are a fair few candidates who have split opinion when it comes to their inclusion – or exclusion – from the side.

And this year, most of the talk seems to be based around who should be the full-back for Super League’s elite 13. Zak Hardaker got the nod after polling the most votes from Rugby League journalists and broadcasters – but many believe Catalan full-back Morgan Escare should have been in the team.

Both aged 22, there can be little doubting that both men are exceptional talents who are set to get better and better in the coming years. However, as of right now, who is the best? That’s probably open to interpretation, but TotalRL.com are going to take a close look at the stats and work out which star has had a better year.

For reference to all statistics, Hardaker has played 21 Super League games, whilst Escare featured in all 27.

Tries: Hardaker 8-27 Escare
When it comes to attacking, exciting full-backs, the first stat people tend to look at is the tries scored during a regular season. And there can be little doubting who comes out on top in this particular field, as Escare has gone through the regular season averaging a try a game. That is a simply phenomenal statistic, and it is that alone that many believe make him the best candidate for the full-back shirt in the Super League Dream Team. Hardaker’s eight tries from 21 games is good, but nowhere near the tally Escare has pouched.

Meters: Hardaker 3254-2623 EscareZak-Hardaker
Another key component of full-back play is running the ball back – not only quickly, but convincingly, too. And in this instance, it is Hardaker who has the nod over his rival, eclipsing him in meters made by some distance. Even though Hardaker has played in six fewer games in 2014, he has made over 600 more meters than his French rival. In fact, Hardaker comes close to the most meters made by anyone in Super League this year.

Clean Breaks: Hardaker 11-23 Escare
Full-backs are renowned worldwide for their ability to break the line and create attacking chances for their side – and that is something Escare does quite often. 23 clean breaks in 27 games is a fantastic ratio, and indicates just how important he is to Catalan’s attacking play. Hardaker has an impressive 11 clean breaks in 23 games, but Escare is clearly in front in this particular field.

Missed Tackles: Hardaker 27-45 EscareMorgan-Escare
One of the few stats where players will be looking for a small total is in the missed tackles field. Both men are nowhere near the top of this particular list – 91 is the most in Super League – but Escare certainly has missed more tackles than his counterpart. His 45 missed tackles from 27 games is pushing two per game, whilst Hardaker is just a fraction over one a game at 27 from 21. Interestingly, only three Catalan players have missed more tackles than Escare in 2014.

Try Assists: Hardaker 13-16 Escare
The final stat which indicates just how closely matched these two full-backs are is the try assist count. Sure, scoring tries is the bread and butter of a full-back’s job in Rugby League, but setting them up can be just as important. When you factor in how many games the two men have played, they’re almost dead even on try assists – Hardaker creates 0.61 tries per game on average, whilst Escare is marginally behind on 0.60 per game! It’s that close – but which full-back is the better of the two for you?